PLEASANT HILL -- A couple of days after the official start of the spring season, a small group of volunteers gathered at the Rodgers Ranch Urban Farm to plant herbs and flowers for spring when they came across a surprising discovery.

A small California boa snake was nestled close to one of the bricks of the spiral herb garden, curled up as if it was taking a nap. After closely observing the snake without disturbing it, the gardeners moved on, marveling at what else they might find as they welcome the much-anticipated season at the urban farm.

"No matter how large or how small a space you have, you learn how to create a garden so that earth and humans can thrive," said Marian Woodard, co-founder of the urban farm and teaching garden.

That philosophy, Woodard said, comes from Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, named by the Washington Post as one of the 10 best gardening books of 2010, and for the last eight years, the best-selling permaculture book in the world.

Hemenway will be the featured guest speaker at a dinner held at the Diablo Valley College cafeteria April 5, the day of the Urban Farm Expo and Plant Sale, which will feature several local vendors and classes at Rodgers Ranch.

Key words that go hand-in-hand with permaculture -- the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be self-sufficient and sustainable -- are "earth care, people care and fair share," said Woodard. A huge part of this design is ensuring that plants grow together to give each other nutrients as well as nourish humans, the birds and the bees and other living beings, she noted.


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"It's a holistic system that takes care of everyone."

Graduates of DVC's Farm-to-Table culinary class who orked on the urban farm last year will be preparing food for the public during the expo. Some of what's growing at the Rodgers Ranch Urban Farm will be for sale, including lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, herbs and flowers, Woodard said.

"Different local plant vendors who grow organically will be selling their produce," she said.

Since vendors don't pay a fee to set up a booth at the event, they are welcome to make a small donation to help maintain programs at the urban farm, Woodard said.

The expo's main feature is the variety of classes that will be offered throughout the day, including bee basics, backyard chickens, useful edible and medicinal plants, grey water and rainwater harvesting, and watering and fertilizing in drought.

"We'd like to show the public how to be bee-friendly by knowing what to plant and how to keep bees healthy," said Woodard, a Pleasant Hill master gardener. "We are losing staggering numbers of bees. Our plan is to become a bee sanctuary by planting bee-friendly plants."

Master gardener Kim Garner, who will be speaking about backyard chickens, will also have body care products made from the honey from her own bees and various plants she grows.

Aside from the DVC dinner featuring author Hemenway and the classes, the plants for sale are worth checking out, said head farmer John Matthesen.

"There are more plants, more varieties. We will have several thousand plants this year, many that you won't find anywhere else," Matthesen said. "The urban farm is bigger, with more things growing and new techniques to teach the community."

Woodard said that Urban Farm Expo, in its second year, aims to bring the public together to inspire and educate one another about planting and growing plants to build stronger, healthier communities.

"When we look out for each other, we become stronger and more resilient," Woodard said.

In addition to having plant experts on site, there will be organic fertilizer as well as planter boxes, harvest and root cellar boxes for sale. Family activities include a native plant display, live chicken display and spring vegetable harvesting.

"This is a sanctuary of all things good," Woodard said.

ger, healthier communities.

"When we look out for each other, we become stronger and more resilient," Woodard said.

In addition to having plant experts on site, there will be organic fertilizer as well as planter boxes, harvest and root cellar boxes for sale. Family activities include a native plant display, live chicken display and spring vegetable harvesting.

"This is a sanctuary of all things good," Woodard said.

if you go
WHAT: Rodgers Ranch Urban Farm Expo
WHEN: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. April 5
WHERE: Rodgers Ranch, 315 Cortsen Road, Pleasant Hill
CLASS SCHEDULE:
  • 10:30 a.m. Bees Basics
  • 11:30 a.m. Backyard Chickens
  • 12:30 p.m. Useful, Edible and Medicinal Plants
  • 1:30 p.m. Grey water & Rainwater Harvesting
  • 2:30 p.m. Watering & Fertilizing in Drought
    INFORMATION: www.RodgersRanchUrbanFarm.org